Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Nicaragua
Flag of Nicaragua
Map of Nicaragua
Introduction Nicaragua
The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua's infrastructure and economy - hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - are slowly being rebuilt.
Geography Nicaragua
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates:
13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 129,494 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the state of New York
Land boundaries:
total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
910 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation
tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources:
gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use:
arable land: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)
Irrigated land:
610 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note:
largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
People Nicaragua
5,570,129 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 36.4% (male 1,031,897/female 994,633)
15-64 years: 60.5% (male 1,677,633/female 1,691,353)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 76,758/female 97,855) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 20.9 years
male: 20.5 years
female: 21.4 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.89% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
24.51 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
4.45 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 28.11 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 31.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 24.54 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.63 years
male: 68.55 years
female: 72.81 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.75 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
6,400 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 500 (2003 est.)
noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan
Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Roman Catholic 72.9%, Evangelical 15.1%, Moravian 1.5%, Episcopal 0.1%, other 1.9%, none 8.5% (1995 census)
Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.5%
male: 67.2%
female: 67.8% (2003 est.)
Government Nicaragua
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
conventional short form: Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
local short form: Nicaragua
Government type:
name: Managua
geographic coordinates: 12 09 N, 86 17 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista); Atlantico Norte*, Atlantico Sur*, Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Esteli, Granada, Jinotega, Leon, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Rio San Juan, Rivas
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
9 January 1987; reforms in 1995 and 2000
Legal system:
civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
16 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Alfredo GOMEZ Urcuyo (since 10 October 2005); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government; Alfredo GOMEZ Urcuyo was elected Vice President by the deputies of the National Assembly after Vice President Jose RIZO Castellon resigned on 27 September 2005
head of government: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Alfredo GOMEZ Urcuyo (since 10 October 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term so long as it is not consecutive); election last held 5 November 2006 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) elected president - 38.07%, Eduardo MONTEALEGRE (ALN) 29%, Jose RIZO (PLC) 26.21%, Edmundo JARQUIN (MRS) 6.44%; note - ORTEGA will take office 10 January 2007
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; members are elected by proportional representation and party lists to serve five-year terms; 1 seat for the previous president, 1 seat for the runner-up in previous presidential election)
elections: last held 5 November 2006 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FSLN 38, PLC 25, ALN 23 (22 plus one for presidential candidate Eduardo MONTEALEGRE, runner-up in the 2006 presidential election), MRS 5, APRE 1 (outgoing President Enrique BOLANOS)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance for the Republic or APRE [Miguel LOPEZ Baldizon]; Central American Unionist Party or PUCA [Blanca ROJAS]; Christian Alternative Party or AC [Orlando TARDENCILLA Espinoza]; Conservative Party or PC [Azalia AVILES Salmeron]; Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Anibal MARTINEZ Nunez, Pedro REYES Vallejos]; Independent Liberal Party for National Unity or PLIUN [Carlos GUERRA Gallardo]; Liberal Constitutional Party or PLC [Jorge CASTILLO Quant]; Liberal Salvation Movement or MSL [Eliseo NUNEZ Hernandez]; New Liberal Party or PALI [Adolfo GARCIA Esquivel]; Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN [Eduardo MONTEALEGRE]; Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path or PCCN [Guillermo OSORNO Molina]; Nicaraguan Resistance Party or PRN [Salvador TALAVERA]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Dora Maria TELLEZ]; Unity Alliance or AU
Political pressure groups and leaders:
National Workers Front or FNT is a Sandinista umbrella group of eight labor unions including - Farm Workers Association or ATC, Health Workers Federation or FETASALUD, Heroes and Martyrs Confederation of Professional Associations or CONAPRO, National Association of Educators of Nicaragua or ANDEN, National Union of Employees or UNE, National Union of Farmers and Ranchers or UNAG, Sandinista Workers Central or CST, and Union of Journalists of Nicaragua or UPN; Permanent Congress of Workers or CPT is an umbrella group of four non-Sandinista labor unions including - Autonomous Nicaraguan Workers Central or CTN-A, Confederation of Labor Unification or CUS, Independent General Confederation of Labor or CGT-I, and Labor Action and Unity Central or CAUS; Nicaraguan Workers' Central or CTN is an independent labor union; Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP is a confederation of business groups
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Salvador STADTHAGEN
chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570, [1] (202) 939-6573
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6545
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Paul A. TRIVELLI
embassy: Kilometer 4.5 Carretera Sur, Managua
mailing address: P.O. Box 327
telephone: [505] 266-6010
FAX: [505] 266-3861
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on the top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom; similar to the flag of El Salvador, which features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band
Economy Nicaragua
Economy - overview:
Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has low per capita income and widespread underemployment. Distribution of income is one of the most unequal on the globe. While the country has progressed toward macroeconomic stability in the past few years, GDP annual growth has been far too low to meet the country's needs, forcing the country to rely on international economic assistance to meet fiscal and debt financing obligations. Nicaragua qualified in early 2004 for some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in November 2006 obtained over $800 million in debt relief from the Inter-American Development Bank. In October 2005, Nicaragua ratified the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which will provide an opportunity for Nicaragua to attract investment, create jobs, and deepen economic development. Energy shortages, however, are a serious bottleneck to growth.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$16.83 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$4.816 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.5% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$3,000 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 17.3%
industry: 25.8%
services: 56.8% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
2.261 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 30.5%
industry: 17.3%
services: 52.2% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate:
3.8% plus underemployment of 46.5% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line:
50% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 45% (2001)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
55.1 (2001)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
9.4% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
29.8% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $945.3 million
expenditures: $1.254 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)
Public debt:
82.7% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products; shrimp, lobsters
food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood
Industrial production growth rate:
2.4% (2005 est.)
Electricity - production:
2.766 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 83.9%
hydro: 7.7%
nuclear: 0%
other: 8.4% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
2.573 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
22 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
23 million kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
14,300 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
25,200 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports:
758.9 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
15,560 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$-883 million (2006 est.)
$1.714 billion f.o.b.; note - includes free trade zones (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts
Exports - partners:
US 34.1%, El Salvador 14.3%, Honduras 7.9%, Costa Rica 6.1%, Guatemala 5.2%, Mexico 5.1%, Spain 4.2% (2005)
$3.202 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products
Imports - partners:
US 20.1%, Venezuela 11.9%, Costa Rica 8.9%, Mexico 8.3%, Guatemala 7%, El Salvador 5.1%, Japan 4.5%, Ecuador 4.2% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$723 million (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$3.763 billion (2006 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$419.5 million (2005 est.)
Currency (code):
gold cordoba (NIO)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
gold cordobas per US dollar - 17.5815 (2006), 16.733 (2005), 15.937 (2004), 15.105 (2003), 14.251 (2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Nicaragua
Telephones - main lines in use:
220,900 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.119 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate system being upgraded by foreign investment
domestic: low-capacity microwave radio relay and wire system being expanded; connected to Central American Microwave System
international: country code - 505; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) and 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)
1.24 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
3 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997)
320,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
24,452 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
3 (2000)
Internet users:
140,000 (2005)
Transportation Nicaragua
176 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 3 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 165
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 141 (2006)
oil 54 km (2006)
total: 6 km
narrow gauge: 6 km 1.067-m gauge (2005)
total: 19,036 km
paved: 2,299 km
unpaved: 16,737 km (2005)
2,220 km (including lakes Managua and Nicaragua) (2005)
Ports and terminals:
Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff
Military Nicaragua
Military branches:
Army (includes Navy, Air Force)
Military service age and obligation:
17 years of age for voluntary military service (2001)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 17-49: 1,309,970
females age 17-49: 1,315,186 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 17-49: 1,051,425
females age 17-49: 1,129,649 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 65,170
females age 17-49: 63,133 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$32.27 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
0.7% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Nicaragua
Disputes - international:
Nicaragua filed a claim against Honduras in 1999 and against Colombia in 2001 at the ICJ over disputed maritime boundary involving 50,000 sq km in the Caribbean Sea, including the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank; the 1992 ICJ ruling for El Salvador and Honduras advised a tripartite resolution to establish a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca, which considers Honduran access to the Pacific; legal dispute over navigational rights of San Juan River on border with Costa Rica
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for cocaine destined for the US and transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007